all rats should be examined
by a veterinarian. Please monitor your pet and call us if you have any concerns. Some signs include: eating less or not eating at all, defecating less or not passing feces at all, and appearing uncomfortable, hunched, or quieter than normal.
Some of the most important pieces of making sure your rat is well taken care of include:
Rat Care Instructions
In general, we recommend the following diet for rats:
- Good quality rat pellets (e.g. Oxbow or Mazuri) with a minimum of 16% crude protein and 4-5% fat should be offered. The mixes of cereal, fruits, seeds, and grains, usually sold as “rat food” at the pet store, are NOT recommended as they do not provide a balanced diet and predispose to obesity and dental problems.
- Vegetables and fruits can be offered in very small amounts as treats. No more than 1/2 teaspoon per day. Treats high in sugar, such as yogurt treats are not recommended and should be given sparingly.
- Many types of enclosures are available for rodents. Enclosures should be well ventilated with wire mesh walls (small enough to prevent escape- ½” x 1”) and a solid bottom floor. If you’re using a multi-story enclosure, make sure the wire meshes of the different levels are even smaller in spacing (¼” x ¼”) to avoid limb injury. Alternatively, you can add shelving or anti-slip kitchen mats to these levels to avoid sores from developing on the bottoms of their feet. In general, the larger the enclosure, the happier your rodent friend will be.
- Paper based absorbable bedding, such as Care Fresh, is recommended. A full cage cleaning should be done once weekly to remove soiled bedding and help remove the smell of ammonia. AVOID aspen, pine, and cedar bedding material.
- Rodents have very sensitive respiratory tracks. Candles, incense, aerosol products, scented products, aromatic diffusers/essential oils, or heavily scented cleaning products should not be used near or around them! When cleaning and disinfecting their enclosure and food bowls, ensure it’s well rinsed off with water and air dried before replacing your pet back into its home.
- Clean, change, and check to make sure the water bottles are functioning frequently.
- Rats are highly social and intelligent creatures. They enjoy the company of rat friends and most importantly you. You should interact with your rat for a minimum of a few hours per day. This will keep your pet well-socialized, happy and strengthen your bond with them.
- Rats are primarily nocturnal, but they will have cycles of activity during the day and night and can adapt to your schedule.
- Rats are curious, very intelligent, and loving animals. Many can be trained to perform basic behavioral commands. They love to burrow, climb, and chew. Providing plenty of wooden or paper-based chew toys for enrichment will keep them mentally stimulated and active. Hammocks, thick rope bridges, and hiding hutches are also excellent housing furniture you can provide them with. These should be laundered and disinfected routinely.
- Always supervise your pet rat while it’s outside of its home. Their curious nature will find the smallest hole to get stuck behind or they may become injured with other larger predators that live in the home (cats/dogs/birds).
- Fights will and do occur amongst rats, more so amongst females. Please monitor them for this behavior and physically separate the aggressor rat when seen. If any injuries occur, please bring your rat to a veterinarian for evaluation.
Intact female rats are very prone to have mammary tumors. The incidence of mammary tumors in intact rats has been reported to be between 30-70%! The majority of mammary tumors in female rats are benign, but surgery to remove the tumor is almost always necessary due to the tumors large size. However, up to 25% of tumors can unfortunately be malignant. Spaying your friend between 3 to 5 months of age reduces the incidence of tumors to less than 6%, and can also reduce the incidence of pituitary gland tumors (another common tumor in rats). Consult your veterinarian for more information and options.